Eucharist Is Deadly Food for Unrepentant Sinners

News: Commentary Print Friendly and PDF
by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  •  November 23, 2016   

"He that eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks judgment to himself."

You are not signed in as a Premium user; we rely on Premium users to support our news reporting. Sign in or Sign up today!

If the Church as a wise Mother has always protected unrepentant sinners from spiritual harm by preventing them from receiving the Eucharist — Christ incarnate — while in a state of mortal sin, then how can it be merciful to remove such safeguards today?

Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, strongly objected last year to the notion of giving Holy Communion to those who do not repent of their unchaste acts.

The entire Church has always firmly held that one may not receive Communion with the knowledge of being in a state of mortal sin, a principle recalled as definitive by John Paul II in his 2003 encyclical "Ecclesia de Eucharistia," on the basis of what was decreed by the Council of Trent. Not even a pope can dispense from such a divine law.

In "Ecclesia de Eucharistia," St. John Paul II teaches,

Along these same lines, the Catechism of the Catholic Church rightly stipulates [paragraph 1385] that "anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to Communion." I therefore desire to reaffirm that in the Church there remains in force, now and in the future, the rule by which the Council of Trent gave concrete expression to the Apostle Paul's stern warning when it affirmed that, in order to receive the Eucharist in a worthy manner, "one must first confess one's sins, when one is aware of mortal sin."

In pointing to this perennial Catholic teaching, Cdl. Sarah was counteracting the notion floated by various Church leaders today that Holy Communion may be given to anyone who is contracepting, cohabitating, civilly remarried or living a gay lifestyle.
Contrary to this liberal mentality, Canon 915 forbids Holy Communion from being given to people who live such sinful lifestyles without repentance. "Those who have been ... obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion."
Clerics and prelates who foster setting aside Church discipline out of respect for the erroneous conscience of public sinners claim they're being merciful. As an aside, the legitimate role of a Catholic's conscience is one of discernment in keeping Church teaching and not one of dissent in setting aside Church teaching.
But the Church in forming Her disciplines never judges the interior heart of man, which is known to God alone. Rather, Catholic discipline has always focused on the external and public acts of man, which can be judged as being in accord or not with Church teaching. And when man's external actions are gravely at odds with the Church's unchanging moral truths, then Holy Mother Church bans such men from receiving Holy Communion to prevent them from spiritually harming themselves by making a sacrilegious Communion.
She does so because, as St. Paul affirms in his first letter to the Corinthians, it's spiritually damning for an unrepentant sinner to receive Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin.
"Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. ... For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself."
Watch the panel discuss how Catholics offer thanks to our Heavenly Father in "The Download—Giving Thanks."


Have a news tip? Submit news to our tip line.

We rely on you to support our news reporting. Please donate today.
By commenting on you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our comment posting guidelines